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The words "enterprise integration" often strike fear in the hearts of business and IT managers alike. Any project that involves the whole enterprise is bound to seem overwhelming. Cost overruns, lengthy delays, and implementations lasting months-or even years-have been the experience of many companies who have tried to overhaul their operations. But integration doesn't have to mean thinking big. In fact, the results will often be better if you start small.

A recent report from analyst firm Celent argued that even small integration projects, involving a dozen services or less, can have significant business value. This particular report focused on the insurance industry, but given the huge complexity and advanced age of most insurance IT systems, the report's findings could apply equally to almost any business.

Celent's research found that large insurers have already realized efficiencies from 10% to 49% over their pre-implementation practices. This is indeed a significant gain for less than a dozen services, and dramatically illustrates the benefits an organization can realize from small integration projects. The report's primary author, Matthew Josefowicz, says that the hype surrounding a complete process-driven architecture is distracting attention from the short-term value of these limited deployments. He argues that deploying even a few reusable services can have an important impact on extending already stretched IT resources.

The companies surveyed were asked to rank the value of integration projects in terms of the benefits realized by various areas of the business. The area that reaped the greatest value was, "Taking in new business by linking together systems internally." Insurers ranked services in this area as having "amazing, game-changing value." Interestingly, New Business Intake is precisely an area that Whitehill is focused on improving in the legal industry as well.

New Business Intake is a complicated process, for both insurance companies and law firms. In the legal market, new business typically needs to be approved by a committee. This is because new business involves something called "conflict searches." Whenever a law firm wants to take on a new matter, it must run searches on the parties involved, to see if the firm has any existing relationships with the prospective client or the opposing parties. This process involves searching a firm's many systems (document management, records management, time & billing, etc.) and has traditionally been done manually. Potential conflicts identified through searches often require review by the attorneys involved with the parties, leading to complex and potentially slow interactions that can hold up engagement.


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